I am sixty six. Kind of a nothing birthday. Certainly not a landmark. Another notch in the belt of life. I am glad to have it.
It’s been a rough two or three years. Cancer. Surgery. Recovery. Radiation. Recovery. More recently, since the first of the month, the raucous pain of kidney stones. Life has seemed to be a life of recovery and rehab, before getting knocked down again. It would be easy to become depressed. But so far, other than the day to day depression I battle with my snicker snack* day to day weapons (Thank you, O therapists of mine!), I am no deeper in the black hole.
When it feels like I am slipping towards the darkness, something happens. Yesterday I was at the grocery store and ran into someone I have not seen for years. “You look great!” She said. “Marriage must agree with you.”
It does. More than I could have hoped. So does my life, for all the pain of the past few years. The important things are good. I have someone to love and someone who loves me. I have work that touches more than my wallet, my soul. I have outlets for creativity, and the time to exercise them. I have a faith that has mutated into something unexpectedly strong and simple.
These are the important things. I’ve lived part of my life where some of the unimportant things thrived and the important things were left fallow. It is not as good a place to be, no matter what the appearance of success may be.
I have a lot of sayings that people who hang around me hear all the time. “Everything in life is a trade-off.” “Life is a big science experiment.” and half a dozen others. Mostly though, life is one big lesson. Everything that happens, teaches, if we allow it. Those lessons can be easy, hard, joyful, a bit maddening, almost always surprising. Those lessons are part of what gives our suffering purpose.
Purpose. As I age, I have come to a place where I think having purpose is one of the keys to joy. Not happiness. Not “success”. Joy. I have seen it in myself. I have seen it in clients and parishioners and friends.
From time to time, I find a young person (The range of “young” has expanded as I age.) who has a purpose that drives them. They are so animated. So filled with energy and drive and, almost always, joy. Whether or not that purpose remains their purpose throughout their life is not important. They have it now.
Life changes us. We grow, hopefully. We have struggles. We grow some more. We learn new things. Life changes around us and in us. And with those changes, our purpose changes. Or we lose it for a time. Or we recapture it. At times we (or at least I have) flounder. Sometimes we know we are floundering. Other times we flounder, mistaking activity for purpose.
And so I turn 66. I am in a place of purpose. I am in a place of love. I am in a place of joy. Having spent many a birthday with one of more of those things missing, this is a good place to be. Pain be damned.
Thanks to all of you who read my poems and scribblings and let me bleed all over the blog each day. And thanks to you over the years who have let me know when something touched you. That, the touching of hearts, is also part of my purpose now, part of my joy. I have come to love you all.
It’s going to be a good year. Happy Birthday to me!
- From Lewis Caroll’s poem Jabberwocky.